Friday, July 24, 2009

ASAN New England Meeting

The New England Chapter of ASAN will have its next monthly meeting from noon to 2pm on Saturday, 01 Aug 2009 in the Lucia MAstrangelo Room of the Watertown Free Public Library. This meeting is free and open to the public. In order to get an accurate attendance estimate, please respond to asannewengland AT hotmail DOT com if you plan to attend.

The Watertown Library is located at 123 Main St, Watertown MA 02472-4401.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why We Oppose CADD

At our last meeting, one of our members asked why ASAN puts so much effort into opposing CADD and groups that support it. If we bring people's attention to CADD, wouldn't that lend credence to it? Also, is CADD even that much of a threat to the Asperger’s community? Short answer: CADD, and groups who promote it, are advocating discrimination against people with AS solely based on our neurology, and we cannot stand for that.

Long answer:

Maxine Aston asserts that an AS/non-AS relationship causes the non-AS partner to suffer from a depressive condition, which she calls "Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder", or CADD. CADD is described as being caused by “a lack of empathetic thought”, although recent research into autistic empathy demonstrates that people with AS experience above-normal levels of personal distress when observing distress in other individuals. Ms. Aston has conducted no peer-reviewed research to support her claims, and this purported "disorder" has never been recognized by any professional association. Moreover, no research into CADD has ever been conducted in compliance with institutional review procedures, and the uniqueness and significance of CADD symptoms has yet to be verified.

CADD is named after Cassandra, a psychic in Greek myth whose predictions were not believed. The reason behind this naming is because the CADD sufferer (invariably female, and invariably non-AS) is not believed by the public when she airs her grievances about her significant other. Aston goes to lengths to describe the AS man as being one person in public and another in private, and implies that many men in the relationships tend to be "drawn to such women whom they try and control". However, even if we assume these statements are verifiable, the duplicitous, controlling behavior they describe is not traditionally considered ASD-related.

Ironically, in the myth, Cassandra was the recipient, not the sender, of unrequited love. Yet somehow, Cassandra's male counterpart (Apollo in the myth, the AS man in the CADD model) is seen as the one not returning affection. Think about this a moment.

One major proponent of CADD is Families of Adults Affected by Asperger's Syndrome (FAAAS), which extends the CADD model to family members other than spouses. FAAAS claims that people with Asperger's are the source of family problems, referring to CADD as “the pathologization of the individual without the dysfunction”. Instead of making a reasonable effort to understand the needs and concerns of AS individuals, FAAAS' founder, Karen Rodman, claims that AS individuals’ difficulties are caused by inconsequential matters and are “without rhyme or reason”.

Although groups such as FAAAS do not explicitly condone physical violence or other extreme techniques traditionally used by hate groups, they still have the potential to wreak significant damage through the legal system. By making broad negative generalizations about people with Asperger's, dismissing our needs, and characterizing us as irrational and violent, FAAAS and similar groups promote systematic discrimination against AS individuals. These stereotyping and scapegoating approaches are very similar in form to the claims made by hate groups.

The funny thing about FAAAS' reasoning is that an non-AS individual’s negative reaction to their AS family member's behavior is blamed on the AS person’s behavior, but the AS person's negative reaction to their non-AS family member is blamed on the AS person's rigidity. This double standard is not fair to the AS individual or to any other human being.

Even disregarding FAAAS and their role in promulgating CADD, the CADD approach itself is a form of ad hominem attack. This attack does not focus on anything specific that the AS individual does; instead, it attacks the AS individual as a person. The AS individual will think: should I be independent, and risk being viewed as cold and unloving, or should I be dependent, and risk being viewed as needy and childlike? This no-win position feels overwhelming and insurmountable to the AS individual, who realizes that he/she will always be judged based on his/her neurology regardless of his/her actions. Fortunately, attacks of this type invalidate themselves because they do not concern the facts at hand, but unfortunately they tend to carry a hefty emotional payload.

Even though bringing attention to CADD-promoting groups may possibly lead people to take CADD seriously, it is the role of all individuals to stop CADD and similar ideas from propagating, because these ideas are borne out of ignorance. The more people see AS individuals as human beings, and judge us on our actions and character and not on our neurological type, the less chance CADD has of spreading.